Music for the Eyes: Manuscripts from the Frank Cooper Facsimile Collection
Music for the Eyes: Facsimiles: Codex Calixtinus

Codex Calixtinus de la Catedral de Santiago de Compostela


This 12th-century manuscript, housed at Santiago de Compostela in Spain, goes by several names: Codex Calixtinus, Liber Sancti Jacobi, or Jacobus. It consists of five books:

Book I contains sermons and liturgy (including chants) in honor of St. James (“Santiago”). It also includes a letter fictitiously attributed to Pope Calixtus II (for whom the codex is named).
Book II tells of the twenty-two miracles of St. James.
Book III describes the moving of St. James’ body from Jerusalem to Compostela.
Book IV, known as the “Chronicle of Turpin,” is a history of Charlemagne. It was falsely attributed to Turpin, the Archbishop of Reims. For this reason it is sometimes known as the “Pseudo-Turpin.”
Book V is one of the most interesting aspects of this codex. Called the “Liber Peregrinationis” (“Guide of the Pilgrim”), it is essential a tourist’s guide to Europe, containing detailed descriptions of the roads, villages, and people on the way to Santiago de Compostela. The appendix to this book includes 20 polyphonic works.

The variety of information contained within the Codex Calixtinus makes it a valuable witness to the history and culture of the medieval world, and a valuable resource for the scholar. We are fortunate to have a faithful reproduction of this manuscript, one of a limited edition of 845.

(Click on each image to enlarge. Image will open in a new window.)

Pope Calixtus II

One of only four color miniatures in the codex, this image is a portrait of Pope Calixtus II. Here he seems to be writing the very letter that his portrait ornaments. It is contained within the large initial C of his name, which opens the letter.

Monophonic Sequence

The monophonic sequence “Gratulemur et letemur” (“We give thanks and rejoice”). The initials of the words “Alleluia” and “Gratulemur” are decorated, with the capital G having the more elaborate ornamentation.


The polyphonic conductus “Congaudeant catholici” (“Let the whole church assemble”). Musicologists disagree about the purpose of the red notation on the lower stave, but some believe this is possibly the first known composition for three voices to have been written down. This example, and the attending debate, is one of the reasons why this codex is so valuable to scholars.

Pilgrim's Guide

Table of contents for Book V of the codex, the “Pilgrim’s Guide.” The organization and content of this book demonstrate that it is rightfully considered the oldest tourist guide of Europe. Pilgrims are given directions to Santiago, descriptions of the quality of the roads, rivers, and countryside, a list of places to stay and “attractions” (saint’s tombs) to visit, and finally a sketch of the city of Santiago and what to expect there.

Chronicle of Turpin

This example shows the only full-page artwork in the codex. These pages constitute the beginning of book IV, the “Chronicle of Turpin,” a history of Charlemagne supposedly written by Archbishop Turpin. In the past, this chronicle had been excised from the codex and distributed as a separate volume. This facsimile restores it to its prior position in the manuscript.

The images on the left show Charlemagne (top left, wearing the crown) with his soldiers. On the right, Archbishop Turpin sits in the middle of a large initial T that begins his name. The initial is ornamented by curved lines, floral designs, and strange animal figures.  The bold artwork and script is representative of the Gothic style of art and architecture of the time.